How Plymouth’s new history centre could look


This is what Plymouth’s new history centre could look like at night.

The team behind the project has issued the latest concepts for the project which will be a game changer in how Plymouth celebrates its incredible history and culture.

The images are being released as exciting plans to put Plymouth on the national cultural map with a new world-class History Centre look set to move up another gear.

A meeting of the Council’s Cabinet is expected to give the green light to start the search for the right company to build the centre which the city hopes will inspire thousands more visitors.

Councillor Peter Smith, Deputy Leader, said: “The History Centre is by far the biggest and most exciting culture and heritage project that the South West has seen for many years. Plymouth has played an incredible role in the history of the region and the world and this is something we need to shout about.

“But it’s not just out attracting visitors to spend money in the city. This will be an incredible resource for our residents, our schools, local historians. The fact we have so many partners onboard wanting to create somewhere people can look, learn, research and feel a sense of pride in Plymouth, says it all.”

Council leader Tudor Evans said: “We are very excited about some of the ideas that could shape the centre. The roof forms a key part of the design concept and will transform the sky line. The aim is to use its surface as a screen to project images, film stills and archives – bringing what will be housed in the centre outside.

“This is about making a bold statement from the roof tops – in this case literally – that Plymouth is proud of its past and wants to celebrate its incredible present.”

Nerys Watts, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South West, said: “We were really pleased to give our initial support for these exciting plans for the Plymouth History Centre and it’s great to see the increased funding committed by the Council. We will continue to work closely with the partners as they work up the plans in more detail before applying for the full grant amount.”

The team has also released more detail about some of the themes that could be part of the centre. It includes:

  • Rooms which celebrate the Plymouth individuals who were influential on the world stage such as Drake and Scott of the Antarctic
  • The city’s relationship with the Royal Navy – both past and present
  • Plymouth’s part in the sailing of the Mayflower to America 400 years ago
  • Life below the water, including marine life and shipwrecks
  • Exhibition space to celebrate Plymouth’s prehistoric landscape
  • Galleries highlighting the west country’s artistic legacy, including Sir Joshua Reynolds, the Cottonian collection and the Newlyn artistts

Cabinet is also set to confirm the commitments to fund the History Centre made back in 2013 and approve a further £2.5 million dealing with construction inflation. This funding will create more than 500 jobs and lever in substantially more external grants

The centre, which is due to open as part of the Mayflower 400 celebrations in 2020, is expected to increase the number of visitors to the museum from the current 80,000 a year for the existing museum and art gallery to 300,000 a year, making it equivalent to the National Marine Aquarium.

It will also boost the city’s economy by increasing the number of day visitors to Plymouth and overnight stays.

The History Centre brings together a wide range of partners and exciting collections to create a state-of-the-art cultural centre on the site of the City Museum and Art Gallery, Central Library, St Luke’s Church. It will form the heart of Plymouth’s developing cultural quarter between the university and College of Art.

As well as the Plymouth Arts and Heritage services collections, the new centre will house the South West Film and Television Archive (SWFTA) and South West Image Bank (SWIB) and selected Naval Heritage Collection

Other partners in the project include the Plymouth University (including Peninsula Arts) and it is supported by National Archives, Plymouth College of Art, the Naval Heritage Centre, the BBC and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The report to Cabinet says some costs have risen since the initial assessment due to the buoyant construction industry, which is affecting major building projects as well as the nature of the project, which involves new buildings, repair and refurbishment of existing buildings. The costs now include the library refurbishment in Taylor Maxwell House on Armada Way as well as funding to pay for special film storage facilities.

The Cabinet outlines what the construction project will involve. It includes

  • The demolition of a section of the current 1956 Central Library building and the garages adjacent to St Luke’s Church to create the site for a new extension to the museum which will connect to the existing library.
  • The new extension will include a café and shop and orientation exhibition space on the ground floor, and study zone including the local collections sections, which is currently housed in the Central Library, on the first floor.
  • On a second floor, will be the archive for the collections housed in environment controlled storage space.
    Refurbishment of existing library and museum spaces
  • Conversion of St Luke’s Church into an exhibition hall, capable of hosting key national touring exhibitions
  • A new public area to Tavistock Place down to the Drake Circus crossing.

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